Rightwing ALEC Puts Wisconsin Anti-Labor Laws On May Agenda
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What remained a mystery was the source of Act 10's requirements that union recertification elections be carried out each year, and that the election be won by a majority of eligible employees rather than a majority of voters.
What Was the Role of the Mackinac Center?
According to the newly exposed agenda for ALEC's upcoming Commerce, Insurance, and Economic Development Task Force meeting on May 11, 2012, Mackinac Center's Director of Labor Policy, Paul Kersey, will propose “The Election Accountability for Municipal Employees Act” for adoption as a model ALEC bill. Like Act 10, Kersey's bill would require unions to re-certify every few years (with legislators filling-in-the-blank about the exact number of years), with an absolute majority of all eligible members, rather than a majority of those voting.
The ALEC Commerce, Insurance, and Economic Development Task Force is responsible for approving ALEC's labor agenda, which includes anti-union legislation and bills that would repeal the minimum wage.
It is not clear from the new documents what role Kersey and the Mackinac Center may have had in Walker's original Act 10 proposal. But the Mackinac Center was certainly part of the discussion last year as protests raged around Governor Walker's limits on collective bargaining.
The same week that the Wisconsin Republican Party sent its open records request to Professor Cronon, the Mackinac Center sent requests to labor studies professors at three Michigan universities asking for all records mentioning “collective bargaining,” “Wisconsin,” “Madison,” “Scott Walker,” or MSNBC host “Rachel Maddow.” This too was perceived by many as an effort to harass scholars.
The Mackinac Center also claimed responsibility for Michigan's "financial martial law" act, signed into law at the height of the Wisconsin protests, giving unelected "emergency financial managers" authority to eliminate union contracts, privatize government services, and dissolve local governments.
Kersey and the Mackinac Center have also long been interested in limiting public sector collective bargaining rights. In 2009, Kersey authored a Mackinac publication outlining a plan to do just that in Michigan. That policy brief proposed "statutory limits on the subject matter of collective bargaining" and an end to "fair share" agreements, both of which appeared in Walker's Act 10. Kersey and Mackinac also gleefully anticipated Walker's attack on collective bargaining in December of 2010, months before Act 10 was introduced.
The Act 10 provisions that the Mackinac Center will introduce to the ALEC Commerce, Insurance, and Economic Development Task Force were recently rejected by a federal court, which held that there was no rational basis for Walker's bill to apply to most public workers, but to specifically exempt the "public safety employees" that had supported Walker in the 2010 election. That court also rejected Act 10's ALEC-inspired prohibition on voluntary union dues deductions.
One Node In a Network
Mackinac Center is part of the State Policy Network, which connects a nexus of state-based think tanks like the MacIver Institute in Wisconsin and the Goldwater Institute in Florida. The State Policy Network is an ALEC member and "Chairman" level sponsor of its 2011 Annual Meeting, and many of its affiliated think tanks -- like the Mackinac Center -- are also ALEC members.
The Mackinac Center does not disclose its donors, but tax records show that it is a benefactor of many of the same funders backing Governor Walker, ALEC, and other right-wing politicians and causes. Since 2001, Mackinac has received at least $80,000 from Koch family foundations, over $472,000 from the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation, hundreds of thousands from foundations associated with the Amway and Wal-Mart fortunes, and more funding from many other sources.
ALEC has had a significant impact on public policy in the nearly 40 years since its founding. But it is only one node in a network of think tanks and policy shops working to advance a right-wing agenda in state government -- including, perhaps, in Wisconsin.